Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Let's Give Thanks III: Friends-giving & Brined Turkey

I really like to cook Thanksgiving, and I have an extra special love for all of those turkey day leftovers. For many years, while we were stationed away from home, I cooked the whole feast and then we invited over as many single sailors as we could find to enjoy the meal with us. Since we are "permanent" where we are now, at least every other year there is a family meal to attend, which leaves me without my beloved leftovers. So two years ago I began the tradition of hosting a "Friends-giving" a few days before the actual holiday.
This gives me the opportunity to do the cooking that I enjoy so much, and gives my fella the opportunity to do the socializing and entertaining that he loves so much. Typically we invite friends that live far from home or for some other reason don't have holiday plans. We eat, we drink, we laugh, and most importantly, we give thanks. We are thankful for the friends that are in our life and for the unique relationships that we have with them. Friends never take the place of family, but having strong friendships is such an important part of a healthy, balanced life.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
-C.S. Lewis
One of the reasons that we host "Friends-giving" is so that we can enjoy an awesome brined turkey that I started making a few years ago. My fella says it "ruined all other turkey" for him. It is a variation on Alton Brown's famous Good Eats turkey from 1999. 

In a large stockpot combine:
2 cups kosher salt
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup whole peppercorns
1-2 whole cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup dried rosemary (or throw in the contents of the whole jar if you don't have quite that much)
1/4 cup dried sage
2 tbsp dried thyme
Aromatics for roasting:
1 apple, quartered
1 onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled but whole

Fill up the pot with water and slowly dissolve brine seasonings over low heat. Allow to simmer for at least 10 minutes to fully bring out the flavors of the dried herbs. Completely cool in the refrigerator. Place thawed turkey in a large oven bag in the roasting pan in case of leaks. With help, pour cooled brine into the bag. Allow to brine in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, turning once during that time. Remove turkey, discarding liquid but retaining herbs (I just pour the brine through a strainer to do this). Add herbs back into cavity of turkey. Place aromatics in a bowl with 1/2 cup water and microwave for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatic (minus the water) to the cavity of the turkey. Pat whole turkey dry with paper towels and coat liberally with canola oil. Place uncovered in 500 degree oven for 30 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 for the remainder of cooking time, tenting as necessary if the bird begins to over brown.

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